Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chang'e-3 lander still operational on 1st year anniverary

LROC NAC oblique mosaic M1145007448LR, LRO orbit 20773, January 14, 2014; slew 54° from orbital nadir, incidence 63.54° incidence angle, resolution 2.78 meters from 148.73 km over 45.65°N, 329.82°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
ECNS - The Chang'e-3 lander continues to perform following 13 full lunar days, the solar powered spacecraft began its 14th hibernation, beginning its most lunar night since its soft landing one year ago, this past weekend. 

The People's Daily reported on Monday, the Chang'e-3 lander "will continue to carry out additional tasks."

During its year on the moon's surface, which included 13 full dormancies on lunar nights and awakenings on lunar days, the Chang'e-3 lunar probe endured the extreme cold environment and carried out more than 30 radio surveys, says Cui Yan, chief designer of the Chang'e-3 lunar program at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC).

"The Chang'e-3 lander has accomplished all its scheduled tasks, but given its good condition, we plan to conduct further experiments to accumulate more technical experience for China's deep space exploration," says Cui.

The Chang'e-3 lunar probe was launched at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China at 1:30 am on Dec 2, 2013, and soft landed on the moon's surface at 12:14 pm on Dec 14 that year. China is the third country to soft land a spacecraft on the surface of an extraterrestrial body.

Related Posts:
LRO: Finding Chang'e-3 (December 15, 2013)
It's not bragging if you do it (December 9, 2013)
Chang'e-3 launched from Xichang (December 1, 2013)
Helping China to the MoonESA (November 29, 2013)
China's Long March to the Moon (January 14, 2012)

20th Release of LRO data to the PDS

It's time in the Sun finally came, last September. Marius K (3.61 km; 9.4°N, 309.3°E), south of its namesake, southeast of Reiner Gamma in Oceanus Procellarum, was among the few places on the lunar surface not previously imaged at high-resolution by LROC cameras. The closer look came at the end of the observational period in the latest, 20th release to the Planetary Data System, December 15, covering roughly mid-June through mid-September 2014. LROC NAC observation M1165144506R, LRO orbit 23602, September 12, 2014; 17.25° incidence angle, resolution 1.07 meters from 105 km over 9.93°N, 309.4°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].See a larger reproduction HERE.
Teams operating sensors on-board the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, including the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), are currently updating the Planetary Data System with another treasure trove of records covering the three months from mid-June through mid-September.

The will be the 20th such Release to the PDS of information gathered from the remarkable LRO which has been orbiting the Moon since June 2009.

Of course, it must be added, this isn't the first time Marius K, transected by Procellarum wrinkle ridges, has been imaged by the LROC Wide Angle Camera. By way of comparison, the small crater is seen here at center in this 34 km-wide field of view in a LROC WAC monochrome (566 nm) mosaic from two sequential passes on July 24, 2011; 63.3 incidence angle, resolution 58.7 meters from 42.16 km [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Release 20 of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter data is now online at the Geosciences Node. This release includes new data acquired between June 15 and September 14, 2014, for CRaTER, Diviner, LAMP, LEND, LOLA, and LROC. Data can be found on the Geosciences Node LRO page. The Lunar Orbital Data Explorer allows one reliable way of searching and downloading LRO data.

Another image really requiring the viewer to select a full-size option to appreciate its detail. A roughly ten kilometer-wide view of the Reiner Gamma contact zone with the Marius Hills, in Oceanus Procellarum. From 20th release of LROC data released to the Planetary Data System (PDS), December 15, 2014. LROC NAC mosaic M1158112330LR, LRO orbit 22614, June 22, 2014; 67.62° incidence angle, resolution 1.07 meters from 105.12 km over 10.32°N, 304.48°E [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Full resolution view from the mosaic immediately above, showing on of the out-lying Marius domes apparently subject to the same influences that keep the Reiner Gamma swirl optically immature. Those studying processes on the Moon highly anticipate the tri-monthly releases of LRO data to the PDS, and hasten to search out familiar locations for a fresh perspective, or a first high-resolution view, even more than five years after LRO began operations.
Updates and instructions, etc., are regularly posted to the PDS Lunar Node, HERE.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

ESA to explore lunar probe partnership with Russia

Ten years after planning got underway to place an ESA lander on the rim of Shackleton crater, the design of the MoonNEXT probe was improved by development of the ESA's ATV resupply ship. Still the program was scrapped. But, even as tensions continue between European Union  partners and Russia, ESA's managers have agreed to investigate joining forces with Roscosmos in Russia's lunar program, forestalled by loss of partnership with India, the problem-plagued Fregat vehicle and tight budgets [ESA/Astrium].
Elizabeth Gibney
NATURE

Science ministers in Europe have resurrected plans to explore the Moon’s surface — and the only strategy currently on the table is to join two uncrewed Russian missions. The developments, which follow the shelving of a proposed European Space Agency (ESA) Moon lander two years ago, come amid growing political tensions between Russia and Western nations.

On 2 December, at a meeting in Luxembourg to determine ESA’s policy, the space agency got the go-ahead and funding to investigate “participation in robotic missions for the exploration of the Moon”. Science ministers from the ESA member states did not approve collaboration with Russia specifically, but at the meeting, ESA scientists presented a proposal to join Russia on its missions to put a lander and a rover on the Moon’s south pole.

Money for lunar exploration will come from a pot of €800 million (US$980 million) contributed by ESA’s member states and dedicated to international space exploration; the pot will primarily pay for activities on the International Space Station and the development of a propulsion module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which is eventually designed to carry astronauts to deep space, and was tested on 5 December in an uncrewed space flight.

"There be dragons here," no longer applies to the Moon's nearly always, or permanently, shadowed areas at polar latitudes. The Vision for Space Exploration, before it also was scrapped, developed inertia for a brief second golden age of lunar exploration, and it prioritized scientific goals there.

Above, the state of our knowledge about the Moon's south pole in 1994 is compared with where this knowledge base stands today, illustrating one vast improvement in our understanding of the Moon gained at low cost and with great efficiency
 
[NASA/GSFC/JPL/DOD/USGS/Caltech/Arizona State University].
In the 45 years since astronauts first walked on the Moon, no European country or space agency has launched a mission to the Moon’s surface. And no lander or astronaut has been to the lunar south pole, a region thought to contain ice and thus deemed a probable spot for any future permanent lunar base. A 12-kilometre-deep crater there might provide access to material from the Moon’s interior, also making it attractive for scientific study, says Ian Crawford, a lunar scientist at Birkbeck, University of London. The ancient material could reveal details of the collision between a Mars-sized planet and early Earth that is thought to have produced the Moon. “The idea that we've ‘been there and done that’ did last for a long time, but that’s gone away now,” says Crawford. “The Moon still has a lot to tell us.”

Read the full article at NATURE, HERE.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Is there an economic case for mining the Moon?

Of necessity, much of the actual work of harvesting resources for true in situ resource utilization (ISRU) will have to be done robotically [Pat Rawlings/SAIC].
Ian Crawford
Birkbeck, University of London

To date, all human economic activity has depended on the material and energy resources of a single planet; understandably, perhaps. It is conceivable though that future advances in space exploration could change this by opening our closed planetary economy to essentially unlimited external resources of energy and raw materials.

Look up at the Moon this evening, and you might be gazing at a solution. The Earth’s closest celestial neighbour seems likely to play a major role and already a number of private companies have been created to explore the possibilities.

It is important to stress that even now, 40 years after the Apollo missions, we still don’t have a complete picture of the Moon’s economic potential, and obtaining one will require a more rigorous programme of lunar exploration than has been undertaken to-date. In part, this is why proposed future lunar exploration missions (such as the recently announced Lunar Mission One) are so important.

"In addition, lunar surface rocks and soils are rich in potentially useful, but heavy (and thus expensive to launch from Earth) raw materials such as magnesium, aluminium, silicon, iron and titanium." - Relative abundances of titanium and iron, as a percentage of weight, plotted against the nearside hemisphere. Note the heaviest incidences appear in the Ocean of Storms and Sea of Tranquility.
Nevertheless, as a result of work over the past four decades, we do now know enough to make a first-order assessment of lunar resource potential. In doing so it is useful to distinguish between three possible future applications of such resources.

Read the full article published at The Conversation, HERE.

NOTE from Mr. Crawford: "This essay is based on a much more detailed review article which will be published next year, and in which references to sources and more extensive discussion will be found here: arXiv.org/abs/1410.6865."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mottled mound at Firsov

Low-angle incidence view of a curious mound on the floor of Firsov crater (51 km; 4.204°N, 112.697°E). 2.2 km field of view from LROC NAC observation M187506567R [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Hiroyuki Sato
LROC News System

Firsov is a 51-km diameter crater located in the farside highlands, approximately 240 km east of King crater. The depth of Firsov's floor from the rim crest is an impressive 4.5 km (that’s 2.5 times the depth of the Grand Canyon in Arizona).

The bright (highly reflective) mound on the crater floor is about 200 meters in height, and 2.5 km in diameter, and really catches your eye. The central portion of the crater floor is relatively flat, suggesting that it at least partially consists of a long-solidified pool of impact-melt; the mound is located within this melt pond deposit.

46 km-wide field of view showing  the high-reflectance mound feature, near center of FriFirsovater, from LROC WAC monochrome (643 nm) observation M176892340CE, LRO orbit 11204, November 25, 2011; 62.51 incidence, resolution 58.62 meters from 43.41 km [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
A number of previous Featured Image posts explored the origins of mounds occurring inside impact craters. Hypotheses include volcanic eruptions, impact debris, and the squeeze-ups of impact melt.

Today's Featured Image highlights the degradation of these mounds, instead of their origin. The low-incidence angle of the top image (~9°) highlights differences in albedo on the mound top, what causes these bright patches?

Perhaps, as the mound surface degrades over time, the high-reflectance materials are exposed unevenly, for example, due to a bumpy surface morphology, where local, topographically high portions are exposed faster and newly exposed material is immature (and thus brighter).

Alternatively, the mound may be constructed from non-uniform materials and/or compositions that exhibit a range of reflectivities. However, scientists believe that during impacts any compositional differences within the target are homogenized in melt deposits. This mound would be a great place to examine that hypothesis.

The bright mound southeast of center on the floor of Firsov is not the only albedo "anomaly" in the vicinity of Firsov crater. This cycle of overlapping fields of view, juxtapositioning data ranging from LROC WAC-derived elevation models to Clementine UV-VIS color ratio maps from 1994, brings into stark relief the unnamed Copernican era crater northeast of Firsov, and also the dramatic patch of albedo swirls coincident with a locally intense crustal magnetism, photographed from orbit by the crew of Apollo 10. It seems distant and detached, but still these swirls are likely associated with the widely-scattered swirl fields farther to the west at Mare Marginis, on the opposite side of the Moon from the energetic basin-forming impact that formed Mare Orientale 3.1 billion years ago [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
View full-window, HERE.

Related Posts:
Shiny Mound
Kagami-mochi on the Moon!
Pancakes in a melt pond
Donut Holes
The Domes of Stevinus Crater
That's a Relief

Friday, November 7, 2014

Exploring the lunar subsurface

Two collapsed segments of a lava tube run from the southwest to the northeast, in the Rimae Prinz-Harbinger mountain region of Oceanus Procellarum (27.46°N, 318.33°E). These collapsed segments may provide access to the subsurface, which has never been directly sampled. The average width of the collapsed segments is ~650 meters. The lava tube is ~50 meters deep, seen in this 7 km-wide field of view from a mosaic of unreleased 2014 LROC NAC observation M1165080128 (L&R) [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
H. Meyer
LROC News System

A lava tube is a volcanic conduit through which lava travels beneath the hardened crust of a lava flow. The presence of lava tubes on the Moon and beyond are inferred based on observations of terrestrial lava tubes, such as those found in Hawaii. Oftentimes, a rille suddenly disappears only to reappear a short distance away.

These are called discontinuous rilles and are thought to be areas where a lava tube collapsed. Collapsed lava tube segments may provide access to the subsurface, which is exciting as a possible site to collect rock samples that remain unaltered due to surface weathering (radiation, thermal cycling, micrometeorite bombardment).

Slightly differing, slightly lower resolution, 11.5 x 15.9 km field of view of the area of interest from a mosaic of LROC Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) observation M1152143995RL, LRO orbit 21776, April 14, 2014; resolution averages 1.33 meters per pixel, incidence angle 48.9° from 132.14 km over 26.86°N, 318.11°E. View the original 8706 x 12008 and an assortment of other sizes HERE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Sunrise over Mons Harbinger. 65 km-wide field of view from mosaic of three LROC Wide Angle Camera (WAC) monochrome (604 nm) observations, swept up during three sequential orbital passes, December 7, 2011,  from 43 km; resolution 58 meters per pixel, incidence 77° [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Context for LROC Featured Image released November 6, 2014, field of view in red, full field swept up in LROC NAC observations M1152143995R & L in yellow. LROC WAC mosaic [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
The lava tube from the LROC Featured Image released November 5, 2014 is located to the west of Montes Harbinger, a large kipuka in Oceanus Procellarum, and to the east of the Rimae Prinz region.

The Rimae Prinz region displays exquisite sinuous rilles as well as other elongate depressions, indicating that there could be other lava tubes in the area.

The Prinz, Rimae Prinz and Vera vent region, east of Aristarchus Plateau. The area of interest is marked with a yellow arrow, upper right in this roughly 120 km square field of view from the LROC WAC 100m global mosaic. the Vera vent 'cobra head' of Rima Prinz I rille (on the north-northeast rim of basalt-inundated Prinz crater, at lower left), is the subject of intense study (see HERE). [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
The entire region, pictured above, is of interest for exploration for several reasons. The diversity of volcanic landforms in the area can tell scientists much about the volcanic history of the Moon. By collecting samples from the surface and subsurface in this region and by careful mapping on-site, scientists can better characterize the diverse basaltic lava flows in terms of both age and composition, which also helps us understand the timing and evolution of lunar volcanism and possible heterogeneities in the lunar mantle. Any time a sample is taken from a site on the Moon and age-dated, it can also be used to calibrate crater densities that are currently used to remotely age-date surfaces in the absence of direct sampling (both on the Moon and other planets).

Lava tubes are of particular interest in terms of human exploration because they are not only scientifically valuable, but they might also provide shielding from the radiation that poses a hazard to future explorers. Furthermore, the region surrounding the lava tube from this Featured Image also hosts large pyroclastic deposits, which are a potential in situ resource that will be critical to sustaining a human presence on the Moon.

Scientists and engineers are looking into the possibility of using the natural structure of the lava tube and associated resources (ISRU) to our advantage to construct habitats for explorers.

Explore the full NAC mosaic here! How many features of interest do you see?

Rimae Prinze Region - Constellation ROI
Discontiguous Rilles

Addendum: Under mid to late afternoon sunlight, another LROC WAC mosaic, swept up under conditions remarkably similar in scale with the third image from above, from the same period of low altitude opportunities the LRO mission afforded during orbital maneuvers in the second half of 2011. Differing sun-moon-spacecraft phase angles allows for an excellent comparison. This particular mosaic was also assembled from LROC WAC observations, but five months earlier, and from three sequential orbital passes, at 43 km altitude. The resolution is 59 meters, incidence angle 64° [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Sunday, November 2, 2014

China celebrates successful “Xiaofei”

Xiaofei, China's 'little flyer,' flight dynamics test platform for the scheduled Chang'e-5 sample return mission in 2017, appears charred but otherwise none the worse for ware following a high-speed direct re-entry from the Moon, encountering Earth's outer atmosphere at an estimated 11.2 km per second, early November 1, 2014 [Xinhua].
Tom Phillips
London Daily Telegraph

China has taken one more step in its ambitious plans to become a global space power by completing the successful re-entry and landing of an unmanned space probe.

The “Xiaofei” or "Little Flyer" lunar orbiter began re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere at 6.13am on Saturday and subsequently landed in Inner Mongolia, state media reported.

The probe was launched eight days ago and travelled more than 520,000 miles during its mission around the Moon.

The mission to the Moon was “another step forward for China's ambition that could eventually land a Chinese citizen there,” Xinhua, China’s official news agency, said. It was “the world's first mission to the Moon and back for some 40 years”.

Saturday’s landing is the latest advance for a space program that China’s leaders see as an important way of commanding international respect. Some Chinese scientists have said they hope space exploration might help them discover precious natural resources that could help satisfy the country’s ravenous hunger for raw materials.

Read the full article from the Telegraph, HERE.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Lunar exploration will reduce shortage of rare earths

The store of our knowledge of the Moon grew exponentially in the wake of America's brief but still lingering commitment to the Vision for Space Exploration (2004-2009), without which the LCROSS, LRO, LADEE and GRAIL missions would not have been funded.
A planned Russian return to the lunar
surface may benefit from a post-
Fobos-Grunt shakeout.
Aram Ter-Ghazaryan
Special to Russia Beyond the Headlines

As part of the Federal Space Program, Moon exploration operations will be launched in 2016. In 2018 the first spacecraft will be sent to the Moon to deliver comet material back to Earth. 

A manned flight is scheduled for 2030-2031. Future plans include the mining of rare earth metals required for the development of high-tech industries.

Scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Moscow State University Sternberg Astronomical Institute and the Russian Federal Space Agency are participating in this Moon exploration project.

The first spacecraft to be sent to the Moon will be relatively simple. According to Vladislav Shevchenko, the Sternberg Institute’s Head of the Department of Lunar and Planetary Research, this is because the Russian space program has not carried out a Moon landing for over 40 years.

“The last Luna-24 launch was carried out in 1976. The current spacecraft, Luna-25, is a lot lighter than its predecessor, as its main mission is to bring back ice from the lunar south pole,” Shevchenko said. According to him, the south pole was chosen because according to satellite data, it houses the largest reserves of frozen volatile gases found in comets.

Read the full article at Russia Beyond the Headlines, HERE.

The last direct sample of the Moon returned to Earth was retrieved by the Soviet Union's Luna 24 robotic lander on August 18, 1976 (in total darkness). The vehicle landed on the rim of this 64 meter-wide crater on the southeastern plains of Mare Crisium (12.717°N, 62.222°E) and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) LROC Narrow Angle Cameras (NAC) imaged the lander's descent stage (lower left) on November 2, 2011, from only 25.57 km overhead. LROC NAC M174868307L, LRO orbit 10904, resolution 43 cm per pixel [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Thursday, October 30, 2014

High speed re-entry of test platform expected Nov. 1


The lunar north pole and about 60 percent of the Moon's farside is visible in this view captured from 3300 km over the Moon's farside, Oct. 28, from the solar array camera in flight aboard a Chang'e 5 flight dynamic test platform. From Earth, a low Crescent Moon was visible in the evening sky. The phase angles of this image are comparable with those of the Soviet Union's Luna 3 vehicle and its first photographs of the farside captured October 7, 1959. Now well along on the return trip, a challenging re-entry at above 11 km/second, a first for China and the primary reason for the test mission, will occur Nov. 1, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND). Dynamic control and high-speed re-entry technologies are necessary for the success of the scheduled 2017 robotic sample return mission Chang'e 5 [Xinhua].

Comparisons have been made with the incidence angles of this, mankind's first look at the Moon's farside, from the Soviet Union's unmanned Luna 3, October 7, 1959 and the view above of Moon and Earth together from the Chang'e-5 flight dynamics test platform, October 28, 2014. More of the Moon's nearside and less farside was seen in the 1959 facsimile radioed back to Earth, but both views feature prominently Mare Moscoviense and mare-filled Tsiolkovskiy crater and highlight the now-well known differences between the two hemispheres, tidally locked into their permanent relationships with earthbound viewers [MAS/NASA].

Postdoctoral position in lunar magnetism

Data from the Apollo era and Lunar Prospector (1998-1999) is being augmented with more recent data from Kaguya (2007) and especially LADEE (2014) to create a more comprehensive model of the long-established connection between crustal magnetism at the antipodes of the Moon's youngest basins and the anomalously fresh surface materials found at these points, built up into brighter, sometimes beautiful swirl formations. (Animation from lunar crustal thickness maps from GRAIL (2012) by the Science Visualization Studio at the Goddard Space Flight Center [NASA/GSFC].
The Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) is inviting applications for a postdoctoral position in the broad field of lunar magnetism. This one-year position (renewable for a second year) aims to decipher the origin of crustal magnetism by modeling spacecraft-derived magnetic field data.

Potential research projects include modeling the direction of crustal magnetization, comparisons of derived crustal magnetization with measured properties of lunar samples, and correlations between magnetic anomalies and GRAIL gravity. 

As part of a larger project, the applicant will have the opportunity to collaborate with paleomagneticists at CEREGE (Aix en Provence) and geodynamo modelers at ISTerre (Grenoble).

To apply, please provide a CV, publication list, contact information of two references, and a 2-page letter that motivates the applicant's interest in the topic and that describes prior relevant research experience. Please respond by email to Mark Wieczorek (wieczor@ipgp.fr) before March 23, 2015.

Mark Wieczorek
IPGP Planetary and Space Sciences
University of Sorbonne
Paris Cité
email: wieczor@ipgp.fr
Tel: +33 (0)1 57 27 53 08
web: www.ipgp.fr/~wieczor

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

LADEE impact crater found

LADEE impact site on the eastern rim of Sundman V crater, the spacecraft was heading west when it impacted the surface. The image was created by ratioing two images, one taken before the impact and another after the impact. The bright area shows the impact point and the ejecta (things that have changed between the time of the two images). The ejecta form a V shaped pattern extending to the northwest from the impact point. Ratio constructed with LROC images M1163066820RE and M1101816767RE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Mark Robinson
Principal Investigator
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC)
Arizona State University

The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) was launched from Wallops Island on 6 September 2013 at 11:27 EDT and was visible over much of the eastern coast of the United States. The spacecraft was 2.37 m (7.8 ft) high and 1.85 m (6.1 ft) wide with a mass of 383 kg (844 lb) including the fuel.

After expending most of its fuel during its successful exploration of the Moon the spacecraft had a mass of about only 248 kg (547 lb) when it impacted the surface.

Artist's rendition of the LADEE spacecraft in orbit around the Moon [NASA/JAXA/LP].
Originally LADEE was placed into a retrograde, near-equatorial orbit to study the Moon's surface bound exosphere and dust environment. Since the Apollo era of exploration several conflicting ideas and observations concerning the existence (or not) of near-surface and high altitude dust were debated, and thus one of LADEE’s key science goals was to search for dust particles high above the surface (no dust was found).

LADEE's engines were fired on 11 April 2014 to adjust the orbit in such a way as to guarantee a farside impact if the spacecraft did not survive the 15 April 2014 eclipse. There was a small worry that if the spacecraft failed during the eclipse and was uncontrollable, it might impact near one of the Apollo sites. Over the subsequent 7 days, the low point in LADEE's orbit decreased resulting in an impact on 18 April 2014.

Before and after images of the LADEE impact site [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
As it passed over the western limb as seen from the Earth, the spacecraft impacted the eastern rim of Sundman V crater (11.85°N, 266.75°E). The impact site (11.8494°N, 266.7507°E) is about 780 m from the crater rim with an altitude of about 2590 m, and was only about 295 meters north of its originally predicted location (based on tracking data).

Like the LADEE spacecraft, the impact crater is small, greater than 3 meters in diameter, barely resolvable by the LROC NAC. Based on impact models, a crater of only about 1.8 m (6 ft) diameter is expected. The crater is very small because, as impacts go, LADEE had a low mass and a low density (0.43 g / cm3 vs. larger than 3.0 g / cm3 for an ordinary chondrite meteorite), and was traveling at only a tenth the speed (1699 m/sec - 3800 mph) of an average asteroid.

LADEE impact crater (centered of image) has a distinctive hour-glass albedo pattern indicative of low angle impacts. Bright material extends to the northwest, while only a minor amount was ejected to the southeast; NAC M1163066820RE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Because it is so small, the crater is hard to identify among the myriad of small fresh craters that dot the lunar surface. However, as images had been acquired of the impact region before the impact occurred, they could be compared with images acquired after the impact to identify the crater.

Since NAC images are so large (250 megapixels) and the new crater is so small the LROC team coregistered the before and after images (called a temporal pair) and then divided the after image by the before image. In this manner any changes to the surface stick out like a beacon! For the LADEE crater the ejecta forms a triangular pattern primarily downrange (to the west) extending more than 200 meters from the impact site. There is also a small triangular area of ejecta uprange but it extends only about 20-30 meters. The ejecta pattern is oriented WNW consistent with the direction the spacecraft was traveling when it impacted.

Zoomed-in view of the impact site, image is 200 m across, NAC M1163066820RE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Explore the catalog of LROC close-ups of lunar spacecraft landing and impact sites, HERE.

Related LADEE Posts:
First Science from LADEE (45th LPSC, March 18 2014)
LADEE's (star tracker) images of the Moon (February 14, 2014)
LADEE economy adds 28 days to mission (February 5, 2014)
LROC captures LADEE from 9,000 meters (January 30, 2014)
Red Moon, Blue Moon Dwayne DayThe Space Review (December 3, 2013)
LADEE begins collecting data (November 22, 2013)
LADEE transitioning out of commissioning phase (November 6, 2013)
Apollo 12 ALSEP first to measure dust accumulation (November 21, 2013)
Chang'e-3 & LADEE: The Role of Serendipity (October 31, 2013)
LADEE LLCD sets new data record (October 25, 2013)
Measuring almost nothing, looking for the almost invisible (October 16, 2013)
LADEE legacies (September 7, 2013)
LADEE Prelaunch Mission Briefing (September 6, 2013)
ESA prepares for LADEE (July 31, 2013)
LADEE arrives at Wallops Island (June 5, 2013)
LADEE ready to baseline dusty lunar exosphere (June 5, 2013)
First laser comm system ready for launch on LADEE (March 16, 2013)
LADEE project manager update (February 6, 2013)
The Mona Lisa test for LADEE communications (January 21, 2013)
Toxicity of lunar dust (July 2, 2012)
Expectations for the LADEE LDEX (March 23, 2012)
The Dust Management Project (August 9, 2010)
LADEE architecture and mission design (July 6, 2010)
DesertRatS testing electrodynamic dust shield (July 5, 2010)
Dust transport and its importance in the origin of lunar swirls (February 21, 2010)
Dust accumulation on Apollo laser reflectors may indicate a surprisingly fast and
more dynamic lunar exosphere
 (February 16, 2010)
NASA applies low cost lessons to LADEE (January 18, 2010)
Nanotech advances in lunar dust mitigation (August 19, 2009)
Moon dust hazard influenced by Sun's elevation (April 17, 2009)
LADEE launch by Orbital from Wallops Island (April 14, 2009)
Understanding the activation and solution properties of lunar dust
for future lunar habitation
 (March 2, 2009)
Respiratory toxicity of lunar highland dust (January 19, 2009)
Toxicological effects of moon dust (June 25, 2008)
Moon dust and duct tape (April 22, 2008)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bellcomm’s 1968 Lunar Exploration Program

Apollo 15 astronaut James Irwin works beside the mission’s Lunar Roving Vehicle, the first to reach the moon, July 31, 1971. Beginning with Apollo 15, NASA deviated from Bellcomm’s proposed Lunar Exploration Program outlined in 1968 [NASA].
David S. F. Portree
Wired

Bellcomm, Inc., based near NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, was carved out of Bell Labs in 1962 to provide technical advice to NASA’s Apollo Program Director. The organization rapidly expanded its bailiwick to support nearly all NASA Office of Manned Space Flight advance planning.

In a January 1968 report, Bellcomm planners N. Hinners, D. James, and F. Schmidt proposed a mission series designed to fill a gap which they felt existed in NASA’s lunar exploration schedule between the first piloted Apollo lunar landing and later, more advanced Apollo Applications Program (AAP) lunar flights. The trio declared that their plan was “based upon a reasonable set of assumptions regarding hardware capability and evolution, an increase in scientific endeavor, launch rates, budgetary constraints, operational learning, lead times, and interaction with other space programs,” as well as “the assumption that lunar exploration will be a continuing aspect of human endeavor.”

To bridge the gap between early Apollo and AAP, they envisioned a series of 12 lunar missions in four phases.

Read the full article, HERE.




Thursday, October 23, 2014

China launches lunar sample return test mission

Long March 3C lofts a lunar free-return trajectory and re-entry test module toward cislunar space early Friday morning, October 24, local time. The booster lifted off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center, in China's Sichuan Province, beginning a nine-day mission to 'live fire' test technologies China considers vital to the eventual success of Chang'e-5, a robotic lunar sample return mission now planned for 2017 [Xinhua/Jiang Hongjing].
Test module launch  preparations [CNSA/CLEP].
XICHANG, Sichuan, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- China launched an unmanned spacecraft early Friday to test technologies to be used in the Chang'e-5, a future probe that will conduct the country's first moon mission with a return to Earth.

The lunar orbiter was launched atop an advanced Long March-3C rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The test spacecraft separated from its carrier rocket and entered the expected the orbit shortly after the liftoff, according to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

The whole mission will take about eight days. Developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the spacecraft will fly around the moon for half a circle and return to Earth.

On its return, the test spacecraft will approach the terrestrial atmosphere at a velocity of nearly 11.2 kilometers per second and rebound to slow down before re-entering the atmosphere. It will land in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The mission is to obtain experimental data and validate re-entry technologies such as guidance, navigation and control, heat shield and trajectory design for a future touch-down on the moon by Chang'e-5, which is expected to be sent to the moon, collect samples and return to Earth in 2017.

It is the first time China has conducted a test involving a half-orbiter around the moon at a height of 380,000 kilometers before having the spacecraft return to Earth.

The test orbiter is a precursor to the last phase of a three-step moon probe project, a lunar sample return mission.

China carried out Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 missions in 2007 and 2010, respectively, capping the orbital phase.

The ongoing second phase saw Chang'e-3 with the country's first moon rover Yutu onboard succeed in soft landing on the moon in December 2013. Chang'e-4 is the backup probe of Chang'e-3 and will help pave the way for future probes.

Related Posts:
Geologic characteristics: Chang'E-3 exploration region (January 31, 2014)
ESA on Yutu, as controllers wait for sunrise, February 9 (January 31, 2014)
Problem with solar-powered Yutu rover before nightfall (January 25, 2014)
Chang'e begins long-term science mission (January 18, 2014)
Preliminary Science Results from Chang'e-3 (January 16, 2014)
Chang'e-3 and Yutu survive first lunar night (January 14, 2014)
Chang'e-3 APXS delivers its first surface analysis (January 1, 2014)
Chang'e-3 lander and Yutu rover from LRO (December 31, 2013)
6 of 8 Chang'e-3 science instruments now active (December 18, 2013)
LRO: Finding Chang'e-3 (December 15, 2013)
China's Jade Rabbit, it's time in the Sun (December 15, 2013)
Chang'e-3 Landing Site in Mare Imbrium (December 15, 2013)
Jade Rabbit successfully deployed to the lunar surface (December 14, 2013)
It's not bragging if you do it (December 9, 2013)
"Lunar Aspirations" - Beijing Review (December 9, 2013)
Chang'e-3 safely inserted into lunar orbit (December 6, 2013)
CCTV: Chang'e-3, launch past TLO to Earthview (December 2, 2013)
Chang'e-3 launched from Xichang (December 1, 2013)
Chang'e-3 launch window opens 1 December 1730 UT (November 29, 2013)
Helping China to the MoonESA (November 29, 2013)
Chang'e-3 and LADEE: The Role of Serendipity (October 31, 2013)
Outstanding animation celebrates China's Chang'e-3 (October 29, 2013)
LROC updates image tally of human artifacts on the Moon (September 25, 2013)
Chang'e-3: China's rover mission (May 4, 2013)
China's grand plan for lunar exploration (October 11, 2012)
ILOA to study deep space from Chang'e-3 (September 11, 2012)
China's Long March to the Moon (January 14, 2012)
China plans lunar research base (May 11, 2011)
PRC continues methodical program (March 8, 2011)
Chang'e-2 arrives in mission orbit (October 9, 2010)
Dispatch from Chang'e-2: Sinus Iridum (October 4, 2010)
Chang'e-2 takes direct approach (October 1, 2010)
Chang'e-2 sets stage for future lunar missions (September 3, 2010)
Chang'e-1 research reported published (July 22, 2010)

China to launch sample return re-entry test vehicle

Long March 3C at Xichang [CNSA/CLEP].
Mo Hong'e
Xinhua

China will launch a new lunar mission this week to test technology likely to be used in Chang'e-5, a future lunar probe with the ability to return to Earth.

The experimental spacecraft launched this week is expected to utilize a free-return trajectory to fly high over the Moon's farside and adjust its course for return directly to Earth, according to a source with the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

The test module is reportedly in nominal condition and is scheduled to launch sometime prior to local dawn, between Friday and Sunday, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

China's Long March-3C booster will carry the mission through trans-lunar injection.

The mission will involve the spacecraft cislunar navigation, re-entering Earth's atmosphere at above 11 km per second and landing safely on Earth, the source said.

Testing the spacecraft to return land safely at a pre-determined location is considered to be a key capability needed for Chang'e-5, the 2017 mission  designed to land, retrieve lunar samples, launch from the Moon and return the samples to Earth.

Monday, October 13, 2014

LRO: widespread evidence of young lunar volcanism

The feature called Maskelyne is one of many newly discovered young volcanic deposits on the Moon. Called irregular mare patches, these areas are thought to be remnants of small basaltic eruptions that occurred much later than the commonly accepted end of lunar volcanism, 1 to 1.5 billion years ago [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Dwayne Brown
NASA HQ

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has provided researchers strong evidence the moon’s volcanic activity slowed gradually instead of stopping abruptly a billion years ago.

Scores of distinctive rock deposits observed by LRO are estimated to be less than 100 million years old. This time period corresponds to Earth’s Cretaceous period, the heyday of dinosaurs. Some areas may be less than 50 million years old. Details of the study are published online in Sunday’s edition of Nature Geoscience.

“This finding is the kind of science that is literally going to make geologists rewrite the textbooks about the moon,” said John Keller, LRO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The deposits are scattered across the moon’s dark volcanic plains and are characterized by a mixture of smooth, rounded, shallow mounds next to patches of rough, blocky terrain. Because of this combination of textures, the researchers refer to these unusual areas as irregular mare patches.

The features are too small to be seen from Earth, averaging less than a third of a mile (500 meters) across in their largest dimension. One of the largest, a well-studied area called Ina, was imaged from lunar orbit by Apollo 15 astronauts.

Ina appeared to be a one-of-a-kind feature until researchers from Arizona State University in Tempe and Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster in Germany spotted many similar regions in high-resolution images taken by the two Narrow Angle Cameras that are part of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC. The team identified a total of 70 irregular mare patches on the near side of the moon.

The large number of these features and their wide distribution strongly suggest that late-stage volcanic activity was not an anomaly but an important part of the moon's geologic history.

The numbers and sizes of the craters within these areas indicate the deposits are relatively recent. Based on a technique that links such crater measurements to the ages of Apollo and Luna samples, three of the irregular mare patches are thought to be less than 100 million years old, and perhaps less than 50 million years old in the case of Ina. The steep slopes leading down from the smooth rock layers to the rough terrain are consistent with the young age estimates.

In contrast, the volcanic plains surrounding these distinctive regions are attributed to volcanic activity that started about 3 1/2 billion years ago and ended roughly 1 billion years ago. At that point, all volcanic activity on the moon was thought to cease.

Several earlier studies suggested that Ina was quite young and might have formed due to localized volcanic activity. However, in the absence of other similar features, Ina was not considered an indication of widespread volcanism.

The findings have major implications for how warm the moon’s interior is thought to be.

An oblique, novel view of the Ina formation (3 km across, 18.65°N, 5.3°E) from the LROC narrow angle camera (resolution 2.5 meters per pixel [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
“The existence and age of the irregular mare patches tell us that the lunar mantle had to remain hot enough to provide magma for the small-volume eruptions that created these unusual young features,” said Sarah Braden, a recent Arizona State University graduate and the lead author of the study.

The new information is hard to reconcile with what currently is thought about the temperature of the interior of the moon.

“These young volcanic features are prime targets for future exploration, both robotic and human,” said Mark Robinson, LROC principal investigator at Arizona State University.

LRO is managed by Goddard for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. LROC, a system of three cameras, was designed and built by Malin Space Science Systems and is operated by Arizona State University.

To access the complete collection of LROC images, visit http://lroc.sese.asu.edu/

For more information about LRO, visit http://www.nasa.gov/lro

Some Related Posts:
Hansteen α -   January 15, 2014
Small-scale volcanism on the lunar mare, July 13, 2013
Unassuming volcanic vent north of Aristarchus Plateau, April 1, 2013
New views of the hollows of Rimae Sosigenes, March 28, 2013
Inside Rima Hyginus, June 12, 2012
Ina of the Meniscus Hollows, March 21, 2012
LUNAR MENISCUS HOLLOWS. P. J. Stooke, Department of Geography and Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada; 43rd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (2012), #1011.
Whale of a Hollow, March 20, 2012
It's a gas, man, Paul Spudis, Smithsonian Air & Space, October 6, 2011